A rain garden is a planting area that captures runoff from rain that falls on roofs, driveways or yards. They help create landscapes that are both beautiful and hydrologically functional. These types of landscapes hold and infiltrate water, rather than generating runoff that causes water quality problems and contributes to flooding.
  • It is a depression or shallow bowl made in the landscape that is level from side to side and end to end.
  • Runoff that travels to your rain garden is temporarily ponded (the water does not stay long).
  • The captured runoff in a rain garden allows water to infiltrate into the soil, rather than running into streets and storm drains.
  • Relies on soils with good percolation rates (clay, not so good).
  • Location is critical. It must be located so runoff goes towards it. Look for low spots, but soils must have good percolation rates. Water should not stand in an area for more than twelve hours.
  • Rain gardens should not be located upslope from a house or closer than ten feet from a foundation.
  • Native plants are recommended for rain gardens. These will develop deep root systems that generate high organic matter and porosity, plus the right choices can tolerate temporary flooding and extended periods of dry weather. These also don't need fertilizer...in fact, it's important that you do not fertilize.
I've gently borrowed all this wonderful information from the Iowa Rain Garden Design and Installation Manual.  I encourage you to take a peek at this resource for more detailed information on plant choices (for zone 5), soil percolation rates, plus how to install and size a rain garden.

I've also created a Rain Garden Pinterest board to show you more wonderful examples.

For those that would like a print of this rain garden diagram you can purchase a digital version here or a hard copy here.

In my next post I'll show you how to create a rain garden with a fun theme (I can't wait!).

If you're interested in more articles like this one, plus would like to receive a free copy of my theme garden eBook, please sign up for my email updates here.



For those that enjoyed my How to Draw a Plant Symbol tutorial, here is the next step...grouping plant symbols.  A general rule of thumb for planting design is to group plants in odd numbers (though once you've exceeded eight in a group you can drop this rule). I've included some steps below, plus a short video on how to draw these plant groups.

1. Using a circle template, draw your plants using circles. Don't be afraid to overlap the circles a bit (so in real life your plants form a mass).
2. Use a felt tip marker to outline the outside edge of the group (with whatever plant edge you'd like...see some examples above). Don't ink the lines that overlap. This technique emphasizes the plant group (rather than the individual plants). Graphically, it's also easier to read. It's okay if your pencil lines show, since the ink will dominate.
3. Use a gray chisel tip marker to add ground shadows (all on the same side...typically the bottom right or bottom left).
4. Note that cross-hairs in the middle of the plant indicate it's proposed, while a dot indicates existing.
5. Only group plants graphically that are all the same species.

If this is too difficult to visualize, please visit my short video here:

If you're interested in more articles like this one, plus would like to receive a free copy of my theme garden eBook, please sign up for my email updates here.



I was poking around my previous garden blog and came across this little ditty I wrote in 2011. I just love designing around patterns and hope it will inspire you to look for design ideas in all beautiful things.

Something I love to do is pick a fun image, color scheme or object to inspire me in designing a garden. It's a great way to generate ideas, yet help narrow down your plant choices.

I found this gingham image above several months ago and have been aching to design a perennial bed based on it. This is a simple border that you can place along a sunny wall or fence. The peak bloom time is June to July. I'm in zone 4 so have planned it accordingly, but you can take the same principles and design something with plants in your area. Oh, and I chose all my perennials through a fabulous plant database found on the Midwest Groundcovers website.

Now that we're over the holiday hump, it's time to start garden planning!

If you're interested in more articles like this one, plus would like to receive a free copy of my theme garden eBook, please sign up for my email updates here.




I can't believe the whirlwind I've been through the past year.

At the beginning of 2013 I was uncertain about which direction I should head with my writing and illustrations. I ended 2013 with a wave of unexpected accomplishments that ironically steered me in a new direction.  It's a direction towards merging my divergent talents into a focus that creates energy and hopefully breathes a fresh perspective into something I adore: garden design.

Though I am still trying to figure out where all this is leading, I truly appreciate so many of you jumping on this crazy garden bandwagon. It has been such a joy meeting so many passionate gardeners.

Some things I accomplished in 2013:
  • Made a big decision to combine both my food and garden blog, then...(only a few months later)...
  • Decided to just focus on my garden blog (jeez, was that a relief).
  • Finished my theme garden eBook (and eventually made the even bigger decision to give it away, which has been worth every copy).

What do I want to accomplish in 2014? Besides continue sharing garden design tips in my own illustrative way, I'd like to focus on a short, important list:
  • Figure out where am I going with all of this. I've made some big shifts this past year, but I'm not quite there yet.  I love teaching, drawing and garden design, so will continue to explore that combination to hopefully educate you, while also filling both our hearts with sunshine.
  • Identify that next big book idea (something is brewing inside me right now).
  • Find out what you'd like me to share and explore with you. If you have a moment, would you mind taking this short survey (only four questions), to help me get started on this last goal?

If you're interested in more articles like this one, plus would like to receive a free copy of my theme garden eBook, please sign up for my email updates here.